Goin' to Malaysia, Again - Travel and Photography Tips (page 1 of 4)
After I first visited Malaysia I posted an article about the trip here on our web site. After completing my fourth trip there in three and a half years I decided to completely update this article to add details that might be useful to others. I hope you find it interesting.

Clouds Over Santubong, South China Sea, Borneo

Malaysia has some very rugged and mountainous terrain, but landscape photography can be difficult in jungle settings because of incredibly dense vegetation. Sometimes unusual opportunities present themselves where the land meets the water. This image was shot from a small and remote beach on the island of Borneo.

The Place

The country of Malaysia is geographically divided into eastern and western parts. East Malaysia consists of two states, Sarawak and Sabah, located on the island of Borneo. The island of Borneo contains these two Malaysian states, the tiny but extremely wealthy country of Brunei, and Kalimantan, Indonesia. The remainder of Malaysiaís thirteen states are located in West Malaysia, also known as the Malayan peninsula or Malaya. West Malaysia is much more developed and contains Malaysiaís cosmopolitan capital city, Kuala Lumpur. To the north of peninsular Malaysia is the country of Thailand, and to its south is the Republic of Singapore.

The People and Their Languages

The Malays, Chinese, and Indians comprise most of the Malaysian population. There are several other minority groups including aboriginal people or orang asli. Most Malaysians are friendly, easy going, and helpful. English is widely spoken, but in rural villages this is not always the case. Bahasa Malaysia is the official language, but other languages such as Mandarin, Iban, and Tamil dominate in some areas. It is worth mentioning that certain native tribes object to having their pictures taken for religious or superstitious reasons. When in doubt, itís best to find out before tripping the shutter.


Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

This image taken from a hotel room shows the Georgetown waterfront and the Straights of Malacca at night. The markets and culturally diverse temples and festivals can provide interesting photographic opportunities. Don't forget to take some keepsake photographs of your time in Malaysia too.

Getting There
From the United States one can fly either east or west to Malaysia. The total transit time from Ohio to Kuala Lumpur ranges from about 28 hours to 34 hours, depending on the route and layovers.  Between 22 and 24 hours are spent in the air. The easterly route stops somewhere in the Middle East. The westerly route has a stop somewhere in Japan or China. Relax, stand up, walk around often, and sleep if and when you can.
Walking and stretching while on any long plane trip is important because it prevents deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a life-threatening condition sometimes caused by sitting for long periods. The plane will land after what seems like an eternity.  When you arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, you will find it to be very modern and efficient. The passage through customs is fast and easy. Taxis are cheap and plentiful, and tickets for one are gotten just outside the international arrival hall inside the airport. Rental cars are available too, they drive on the opposite side of the road compared to America and the traffic in Kuala Lumpur is unbelievable. These two facts could easily lead to a disaster. However you go, the drive from the airport to Kuala Lumpur takes about 45 minutes.

Windows of the Soul, Orangutan, Borneo
If you use electronic flash to photograph orangutans, you may end up without a camera. This image was taken in available light at 600 mm on Provia 400 film pushed to ISO 800.

Jet Lag

Depending on whether daylight saving time is in effect, there is a twelve or thirteen hour time difference between eastern time in the United States and the time in Malaysia. After being in transit for so long and passing through numerous time zones and a date line, the zombie-like feeling of jet lag is unavoidable. It gets a little better each day and the time it takes to feel normal again varies from person to person. I usually feel reasonably good on the fourth day, but complete normalcy doesn't happen for about a week. It is interesting that the jet lag is much worse when coming back home.

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